WHAT IS DIABETES?

Diabetes is a break down in the body’s normal metabolism. When you eat, your body digests that food into a simple blood sugar called glucose. Like gas in your car, glucose fuels all of your body’s functions. The cells of your body use the glucose in your blood stream for growth and energy. They also store it for future use.

The hormone insulin regulates the levels of glucose in your blood. For the cells in your body to be able to absorb glucose, insulin must be available. The pancreas, which is a large gland located behind the stomach, is always making and releasing small doses of insulin. The hormone is made by specialized cells called beta-cells. Whenever you eat and drink, the beta-cells in the pancreas automatically swing into action as if they know more glucose is on the way. They send out the perfect amount of insulin to allow the cells to make use of the glucose already present. This drops the level of glucose in your blood temporarily.

That is the way the process is supposed to work. However, in people with diabetes, their pancreas will not make and release enough insulin. Or, their cells do not use the insulin available even when it is present in normal levels to absorb the glucose from the blood.

As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. At a certain point, the level of glucose becomes so high that it overflows into the urine. When diabetics empty their bladder, it passes out in the urine. The fuel for the body’s functions is being wasted.

There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is the type that requires supplemental insulin and is usually diagnosed in childhood. For this reason, it is often called juvenile diabetes. The pancreas of a Type 1 Diabetes patient doesn’t make enough insulin for the cells to absorb the available glucose in the bloodstream.

The body is unable to use this glucose for energy. The high levels of glucose in the bloodstream lead to increased hunger. The same excess of glucose makes the Type 1 sufferer urinate more often, which results in excessive thirst. Within 5 – 10 years after diagnosis, the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas are completely destroyed, and no more insulin is produced.

In the more common Type 2 Diabetes, your pancreas is making normal amounts of insulin. However, your body is not processing the glucose in your blood with the insulin available. Type 2 Diabetes accounts for over 90% of the known cases of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops in older, overweight or obese individuals who become resistant to the effects of insulin over time. If you have this condition, your body is usually producing enough insulin, but it is not processing the glucose in your blood with the insulin available. This results in high levels of glucose in your blood and is called insulin resistance.

A vicious cycle begins within your body. Your pancreas steps up insulin production. Your cells react to the increased level of insulin by becoming even more resistant to letting insulin do its job of getting the glucose inside your cells to be converted to fuel. Your blood stream’s chemical composition goes through a yo-yoing effect of high glucose levels followed by high insulin levels.

Type 2 diabetes develops gradually. Although Type 2 diabetes does develop in lean people, especially the elderly, most patients with Type 2 diabetes are also overweight. The incidence of Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common because of the aging American population, increasing obesity, and failure to exercise. Most people are unaware that they have the disease.

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